Travel

#1 Travel Tip for Flying With Kids

#1 Travel Tip for Flying with Kids

Now that we’ve been parents for six-and-a-half years, we’ve flown several long flights, including to visit family in California and England. But on every flight, I refuse to do one airplane ritual…

As people prepare to board the plane, the airline will invariably invite parents with young children to board first. And many brave parents go for it. But why?! Why would you do that to yourself?

We’ve found that it’s way easier to wait until the last nanosecond to board. Instead of sitting on a parked plane, trying to convince your kids to sit still and speak quietly, and busting out snacks, books and phones — your little ones are free to run around the airport, watch planes out the window, hit the bathroom one more time and generally get their wiggles out.

Then! At the last minute, you swoop in, grab your seats, and go. You’ve shaved 30 or 45 minutes off your overall flight — during which, as any parent flying with kids will tell you, every second matters :)

Do you do the same, or do you prefer boarding early? Any other family travel tips you have? Also, here’s a smarter way to board planes overall — so interesting!

P.S. Ten tips for traveling with a baby, and how to entertain a toddler on a plane.

  1. Best tip ever. Especially if there is a delay. Once I had to sit on the plane for more than 2 hours.

  2. kelly says...

    I know this has probably already been said but in my experience traveling with my son, which has been quite frequently over his 5 years, pre-boarding is the way to go. I love sitting at the very back because it gives us easy access to the bathrooms, extra standing space, and the opportunity to befriend the flight staff. It is also more likely we will get the advantage of an extra seat if there are any. I love not having eyes staring at the back of my head if my son does get bored, his toys can only get lost under the seat in front of us, and it is louder to help drown out his loud, sweet voice. Finally he wants to speak to and sometimes touch everyone he passes on the way to his seat so early boarding helps speed up this process. At the end of the day you find what works for your family, if that’s waiting until the end then do that!

  3. We do this too! What I would prefer the airlines do is let families OFF the plane first! That end wait can be grueling and when all wits are lost!

    • I agree! OFF first would be amazing! Holding a backpack and a half-finished snack and the toy they dropped while scooping up a grouchy half-asleep toddler is made much worse when standing in the hot gridlock of the aisle! Just let me get my circus out of the way!

  4. THANK YOU! I’ve never understood this – yes – PLEASE let me board and sit there another 45 minutes or so with a boy who refuses to sit, ever. Torture! I am always the last one on the plane :)

  5. Eliza says...

    For me whether I board early depends on the age(s) and personality(ies) of the kids with me, also the time of day and whether I have a nursing baby. I’ve flown with 4 kids, one kid, babies, no babies, husband with me, no husband with me. Delayed flights, red-eyes, connections, carryons, no carryons. Electronics that worked and electronics that didn’t work. (Yikes!) Extra seats, no extra seats. Car seats, no car seats.

    The biggest predictor of success for me is actually the flight attendants. If I feel like I have the flight attendants on my side, my stress level is WAY lower. I do my very best to make friends with them. Boarding early helps that.

    Also– Dum-Dums!!!

  6. Such a great trip! I am 23 and without kids but still don’t rush to get on the plane. I always travel light because I know I won’t have to wait around for my baggage. But I won’t land earlier if I board first. If I am in the middle of reading my book I wait until the queue is almost completely gone. Then, when everyone is settled I get up and board. Makes perfect sense for me to relax.

  7. Sam says...

    We do this too, for totally the same reasons, hell even I want to wait until the last minute to board as we’re usually doing the UK-AUS routes back and forth.

    My best long haul tip apart from treating it all like an adventure is with kids to make sure you have a couple of balloons in your pocket, deflated of course!

    These can be blown up easily at those tricky times like waiting to get through customs and played with, I always find those points hardest anyway!

    Agreed, the most lovely photo, ! I bet that one will be a special memento in years to come Jo.

    Sam x
    Instagram@willowandblossom_oils

  8. Christy says...

    Someone said “entitled parents” about coming last onto the flight. Really? It’s hard to travel with kids no matter how old/young they are. What if it was a 90 year old grandmother who needed to get settled in with her caregiver? Would that be less “entitled”? Give someone a break. Us parents usually choose to have kids and yes, that’s our choice. But what happened to us all trying to work together for the better good? Wouldn’t you rather sit near pleasant kids that have been worn out prior to boarding if it doesn’t make the entire plane late? Haven’t you ever nearly missed a connecting flight and had to run onto a plane at the final minute? I know I have. Some days I can’t even remember my own name when I’m traveling with kids so try to be patient and understanding that people are doing the best they can. If we all practiced this idea a little more, we’d be a much happier and functional society.

  9. Kate says...

    Some people hate this, but I LOVE when the overhead compartments are full and they offer to check your bag at the gate. The last thing I need is trying to lift a suitcase above my head while corralling a toddler on a crowded plane. I keep a small bag/purse with snacks, iPad, more snacks, and a sippy cup and then pray for the best! :)

  10. Angela says...

    We just took a short flight on American Airlines for a short vacation and didn’t check in any bags. First surprise: the plane started boarding passengers early. No big deal. We like to wait until the end anyway. The less time on a plane with a little kid, the better. But we were told there was no more room in the overhead compartments so we had to check in our bag. Surprise number two: when we got on the plane, there was plenty of space in the overhead compartments! The flight wasn’t even full! I asked the flight attendant and she said it was based on a computer program of how many people boarded the plane when they stopped accepting carry on luggage. (This is the first time this has happened to us and we fly several times a year.) We may have to rethink waiting until the last minute to board.

  11. Courtney says...

    Oh this is so smart. We’re going to have to be those parents who preboard to scrub everything down due to peanut/nut allergies, but now I think maybe we’ll send one parent to board and scrub and the other parent to wait til the last second.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh that must be so tricky with so many airlines still serving peanuts!

    • Courtney says...

      Yes! We’re in this EXACT situation (peanut allergy) and we always have one parent board first and wipe down, and then the second parent waits and gets out wiggles.

      When I’m flying alone with my child, I board early to wipe down but we usually walk to the back and pay a visit to the flight attendants to let them know of our allergy situation, use the restroom back there if necessary, etc. We try to *just* read books until the plane is in the air (I always pack half a dozen small, paperback books). My child knows that there is no snacks/screen time until the plane is in the air, and it works for us. :)

  12. Kate says...

    Yes to this! We fly a ton (my 9 month old just had his 22nd flight- most of which were long hauls), and this was a game changer for us. When possible, I send my husband ahead with all the bags to get overhead bin space secured, and then I board with the baby at the last minute. Highly recommend this.

    • Aimee says...

      You must be a pro! (Is your little guy Ben?) It gets both easier and more complicated once those little ones start moving!

    • Yes; we fly a lot (to Europe and cross-country as well as short flights) with our two kids, and if we are carrying on a suitcase one parent always goes ahead to stow it, as well as to hand over a gate-checked stroller if we have one. Honestly though, we went from die-hard Never Check people to huge fans of checking as much as possible (having an airline loyalty-linked credit card often gets you free checked bags, and kid gear checks for free) and traveling with only the backpacks/totes of on-board activities. It was huge when the kids got old enough to carry their own backpacks, too!

  13. Irene says...

    We are totally late boarders as well!

  14. cgw says...

    When our daughter was very young we would board early. Now that she’s 11, we no long qualify for preboarding. We enjoyed boarding early (never used a stroller, ever) because it wasn’t just about putting stuff away, but also a chance for her to get used to her surroundings. By the time folks started sitting down around us she’d already gotten a chance to pull up to the seat in front and take a look, etc. She was settled when they got settled.

    As for other tips for flying w young children, I didn’t wrap little gifts up for her to unravel, though I did bring at least one new or special thing for the trip -usually a small coloring book or pad of blank paper. There are also these little washable markers that come on a hook. It’s great! All the markers stay together.

    Many people have suggested bringing treats and gum. I don’t do salty treats like goldfish, etc. It just makes the kid thirsty, then water, then bathroom. Instead I’ll offer up gummy worms, or other things that aren’t too salty. When she was quite young, instead of giving her gum to relieve the pressure in her ears during take off and landing, I had a stash of Dum Dum lollipops. They’re small enough that I don’t feel bad for giving my young child two lollies in one flight. But hearty enough that it’ll last the duration of a take off or landing. What I’ve found w gum was that as soon as the flavor was gone, she lost interest and there was nothing left to make her swallow. Lollies work very well. But timing is key. Most parents tend to offer something as the plane rolls on the tarmac. I wait until the last minute -usually as we’ve just gotten off ground, I’ll ask her how her ears are and if she’s looking not so sure, I hand her a lollie. Works like a charm. Same for landing. I wait until ears are just beginning to pop before handing her one more.

    Starting about the age of three she would carry her own backpack. She got to choose to pack two things, and I got to choose for her to pack another thing or two. Usually it meant a small stuffed friend, markers, paper, stickers, and a baggie of sweet treats like fruit gummies.

    Now that she’s much older there’s way less to worry about. She packs an iPad and she’s good.

  15. Laura says...

    Yes! This is absolutely true! I could never understand why the airlines thought they were doing us a favor by letting us board first… I would much rather let the kiddos stretch their legs and get the wiggles out a little longer before getting on the flight. Definitely a good tip.

  16. Agree. I do the same, but my number one advice for traveling children is different, and it is called: IPad. :)

  17. Bridget says...

    I am with you. I hate preboarding! Even now that my 4 kids are older we are still the last to get on.

  18. Cheryl says...

    Our boys love flying so much that it’s more annoying to make them wait to board the plane than it is to make them get settled once they’re in their seats. To them, the more time on the plane the better. ;)

  19. Abesha1 says...

    No! Preboarding isn’t just for you; it’s so everyone can get settled as quickly as possible. Face it: we have more stuff, take up more room, and thus need more time to settle. Plus, you have more room in which to do it.
    Treat it as fun- this is the time they CAN explore the plane, the seat belts, the window shades!

    -seasoned mom of two young travelers.

    • Marisa says...

      I agree! My son is only 3 so I still travel with his car seat. I like boarding before everyone. I have to get the car seat off the stroller, fold the stroller, stumble down the aisle, and then install the car seat before he can even sit down. I like sitting him in an empty row while I get everything together. I hate when others hold up the boarding process, so I try my best not to be that person! Plus, the captains often invite him up to the cockpit, or the flight attendants will show him something cool in the galley. It is the highlight of the flight for him.

  20. Molly Sarah says...

    I am with you whole heartedly in this one. I have done a lot of flights to and from Brazil from Seattle (3 separate flights, 19-26 hours total travel time depending on the connections) sometimes alone with my two sons who are 6 and 1 and a half and we always board at the very last minute!

  21. I only have one right now but my husbands family lives in China so it’s a 14+4 hour flight and yes we wait for the very last minute to board!

  22. Jessica says...

    When we just had one lap child and we could pick seats in advance, we would pick an aisle and a window towards the back of the plane and we would leave the middle seat. This increased our chances that no one would be in that seat and we’d have 3 seats for our family. If someone did have that seat assigned, they happily traded it for the window or aisle. win/win.

  23. Carolyn says...

    I agree with Kelly – the fight for overhead locker space is also a thing. Maybe one parent to board early and one at the end.
    Headphones and kids games and stories on a device are one way to pass some settled time.

  24. Stephanie says...

    We really waited to do any long flights until my youngest was 7– it just sucked too much before that and we didn’t need to except for vacations. God they’re so much easier now at 11 and 12– it’s like flying with any adult. We flew to Thailand earlier this year and they did fine. My one big tip– get on the plane early and head to the bathroom before it gets totally funkified by the people who can’t aim when they pee. That’s about all I got. And ipads.

  25. E says...

    Playdoh and stickers. You may get stopped by TSA for the playdoh- has happened to me 2xs and they check it- but it’s worth it. We’ve been on lots of 4+ hour flights and my toddler never tires of play doh.

    Stickers are also non-stop fun- the peeling off of the sticker- placing it on paper-takes up SO much time.

    • E says...

      Oh! Also- I started traveling with my daughter when she was young (4 months) and from early on it was assumed that getting up was not an option. I almost think that to this day that she thinks that you’re only able to get up to use the restroom (she’s almost 4 now).

      This may sound insane at first- but it keeps her from wanting to get up/down/up/down/up/down and keeps us from playing this game of walking up and down the aisles.

    • Amy says...

      Yes, yes, no aisle walking here either! An ex-hostie gave me the tip once that if you are even taking them to the bathroom, carry them, or you may find yourself in that walk-the-the-aisle hell forever more. We fly a lot and I swear by this one too.

  26. I do this even though I almost always fly solo, lol. I hate sitting on airplanes longer than I have to!

  27. Kelly says...

    I like to get on the plane ASAP. We travel overseas 1-2 times per year, and I always find it less stressful to get on the plane earlier. I get anxious about finding overhead space for all of the kiddo’s stuff and I want ample time to sanitize the whole area with antibacterial wipes (airplane travel is the only time I use antibacterial anything!)

  28. Summer says...

    I saw a family do this recently at the airport and I mentioned this tip you’d mentioned to my husband (we don’t have kids). He was impressed, and a little caught off-guard (that I know mommy tips). Hahahaha!

  29. Megan says...

    So far we’ve always gotten on early with our baby. As other people have mentioned, this is partially so we get overhead bin space. But, we also always pay for a seat for her and use her car seat, so getting on a little early lets us move easily through the aisles, get the seat installed, etc. without fighting other passengers for space, settle ourselves, and often (she’s been on 11 planes in her 8 months!) she will fall asleep before takeoff :-)

  30. MJay says...

    My kids are old enough that I board when our group is called. They like to people watch as people get on the plane.

    Checking your bags is my #1 tip (already mentioned in earlier comments). It’s worth the $25 to not worry about overhead space and wrangling kids + stuff.

    In the mean time, can everyone just quit the new practice of bringing cutesy presents for other travelers?

    • Nina says...

      YES to your last point.

    • Jenny says...

      Cutesy presents for other travelers? This is a thing?

    • Cynthia says...

      Frankly, people were LUCKY to sit near my kids on the plane when they were little- they didn’t need any special presents.
      Also, no one gave me any cutesy presents at home when the kids WERE being annoying.
      (Okay, maybe not lucky, but my kids were good travlers).

    • Leah says...

      Good lord, yes. Since when do people need to apologize for their kids’ normal behavior. If my kid is disrespectful to you, you are getting an apology (from me and him). If he cries for a couple of minutes because he’s a bored, tired 3 y/o? I don’t owe you an apology or a goody bag.

  31. Amelia says...

    I 100% agree!! We did a ton of flying this summer and by the end we were like “Ummm boarding early with a toddler seems like a punishment, not a help.” It’s nice that they offer the option, but I think your advice is wise.

  32. Laurel K says...

    We usually fly Southwest and unfortunately since they don’t have assigned seats, we take the advantage and board early!

  33. Becca says...

    we do the exact same thing. my husband suggested it and at first i thought it was crazy but now i totally get it. he’s 6’5″ so he’s always boarded at the last second (freaked me right out at the beginning) to minimize his time scrunched in his seat. a great tip!

  34. Leah says...

    This would never work for us. Our kids are 3 and 2 and we take at least one car seat on board. Car seats are hard to install on airplane seats so we need extra time and space for that. Also, the last people on planes don’t get ANY overhead space anymore. The only thing worse than flying with kids in cramped economy seats is also having no leg room because your bags are under your seat.

    We try to split up and my husband boards early with my 3 y/o and all the gear, and I join later with the baby.

    • Wallace says...

      May I ask which car seat you travel with? This will be my son’s first cross country trip with a convertible car seat (not his infant seat) so I’m looking for a good travel version. My Clek is WAY too heavy.

    • Leah says...

      Since we fly a lot and have 2 kids (and another on the way), we bought a cheap, lightweight seat specifically for travel. I think it was Costco’s $60 seat. Check Amazon reviews for other seats that people use on flights. The real key is to get a car seat backpack for carrying it on your back through the airports.

      The hassle has always been worth it for us, because in the 0-2 year range, they don’t understand staying in an airplane seat but they definitely understand staying in a car seat. They feel like it’s “their” secure space. They are happy to eat and sleep in it because they are so accustomed to being in a car seat.

  35. Laura says...

    We do a version of this. One parent goes in early with the bags and the gear and wipes down the seats and tray tables with Clorox wipes. Other parent boards with nothing but the kids at the very last second.

    • oh i love this! thanks for the tip :)

    • jen says...

      that’s what we do as well. otherwise you have no overhead bin space for carry-on luggage.

  36. Kathryn says...

    I thought I was the only one that did this!! I do it even when I don’t have kids, no one needs to enter the sardine can any earlier then they have to!

  37. As someone who starts to get nauseous even as we approach the airport, I cannot believe this never occurred to me.

    • Talia says...

      Right?! I am so claustrophobic that I only wish I would have thought of this!

  38. Heather says...

    I like to board early and be done with it. When traveling with our son we try to get to the airport early enough to not have to rush, which leaves plenty of time to get the wiggles out before pre-boarding begins.

    We typically fly Southwest. I like having family boarding right after the “A Group” so that I don’t have to worry about checking in exactly 24 hours before the flight to get a good boarding position. Since I usually check everything I can if I’m traveling with my toddler, the benefit of boarding early for us is getting a row of seats together (for the airline it is to have all of the strollers and car seats gate checked at one time while there is still plenty of room in the cargo bay) . If the flight is not full this could mean a seat for our toddler who is young enough to be traveling on a lap infant ticket. While we are on the ground we interest our son in whatever is happening out the window. He is a curious and observant little man so this works well for us. Once we take off and there is nothing but clouds out the window, we start introducing snacks or toys. I do my best to get as much life out of each item as possible so my stockpile can last the entire flight. If he get’s restless the best distraction is having a friendly passenger seated nearby to wave and make faces at my son. Kind hearted flight mates have saved us many times. So please fellow travelers, don’t get frustrated with the little ones on your flight, play peek-a-boo or strike up a conversation with them instead!

    We try to schedule flights around nap or bed time too, but my son is old enough now that being in a new place with lots of new people can be too much of a distraction for him to sleep. So I may have switch tactics for future trips.

  39. We haven’t flown with our kids since our oldest was about 3 months old. At that time I think we just boarded regularly. But in general I’ve always thought it was crazy to get the kids into those cramped spaces earlier than necessary!!

  40. Kayla says...

    One thousand percent agree! This way you also don’t have to get up and down and scoot in and out of the aisle for other passengers. This is my number one tip for parents flying too.

  41. I never thought of doing it this way. I always board early to get my twins settled and all our bags sorted. I might give this a try next time but send my hubby ahead with the bags to secure space in the overhead bins. Thanks for sharing and have a lovely day.

    XOXO, Amy @ Jeans and a Tea
    http://www.jeansandatea.com

  42. Kristen says...

    Joanna, I flew with kids last week and was thinking of you! My question for you is unrelated to boarding: since you have elevator and subway phobia, how in the world do you manage long airplane rides? I need some tricks, quickly! And heck yes to boarding last! ; )

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thanks for the question, kristen! hope you’re going somewhere fun :) i actually am not claustrophobic on planes, weirdly! i always pick an aisle seat (versus window) but other than that, i’m fine about being on flights. i think because i know that we’re definitely going to land in 3 hours or 6 hours or however long the flight is. you’d never get stuck in the plane. but if you’re nervous, you might try sodoku or a game like that that keeps your mind focused instead of worrying. that has helped me in the past with general anxiety situations. or chatting with the person next to you or bringing a very compelling book or movie. whatever gets your mind off worrying.

      also (this is SO dorky and embarrassing) i am claustrophobic in those insane bathrooms, so i make alex guard the door and i don’t close it all the way! i leave like the teeniest little crack in the door and pray that people can’t see me. it’s so embarrassing!

  43. Sirena says...

    In principle I agree, but practically speaking, I need the overhead space for my extra bag, and if I wait til the last minute to hop on it’ll be gone for sure :-( so I have to hop on early. Our boys are especially small though – 3.5 and 13 months old, so we have to travel with more “stuff” – still diapers and wipes and milk for the baby, change of clothes for him, etc….

  44. Kayla says...

    Hold on- How sweet is Toby’s face in this picture!
    Jo, Toby totally thinks you are a rockstar in this moment! Precious.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      aww, kayla, that made my day :) thank you :)

  45. Kendra Wilkins says...

    I’ve flown enough with my children that I don’t really stress out. This last flight I had all three of my children ALONE, we were flying to meet my husband and his family for a funeral. The flight was packed, our seats were in the very back of the plane and I had our stuff in a bunch of different bags so I chose for the early board. I did it for my sanity. I needed extra time to get sorted without everyone’s eyes on me. It worked well and I was able to put everything in its spot and get the kids all organized (aka IPads and candy handed out) and catch my breath before take off. Normally I never board early, and if we ever fly with the hubs I would laugh at the idea. But it worked for this flight. The flight went well and there was minimal crying so I’m claiming a victory!

  46. Tracey says...

    My kids are much older now, but the best strategy I had for keeping small children happy on the plane was that any new small travel toys I bought for the trip (varying from maybe a small magnet board and magnets or coloring materials, etc) I would gift wrap. When inevitable travel grumpiness occurred, nothing was a better distraction than pulling out a new gift wrapped little package from the diaper bag. I think that even “old” toys wrapped up in wrapping paper would work. The delight of surprise is the best distraction!

  47. Claire says...

    This and your “never sit all together” rule are the best travel advice I’ve ever read when traveling with kids. I tell everybody I know.

  48. Yes yes yes! I boarded first with my baby the first time I traveled with him, solo, and I remember thinking, “Why am I sitting here? What have I done to myself?” I spent the next 2.5 hours with him jumping on my lap. Saving thirty minutes would have spared me a lot of pain.

    Now, we always try to be the very last ones on the plane. If everyone else is sitting we can easily get our things stowed and our children settled quickly. As you say, those extra minutes of not being confined are incredibly precious.

  49. Nina says...

    I’m a mum who’s also a wheelchair user, and if for some reason we cannot preboard, I get really anxious – that my husband won’t be able to carry the stroller, all our hand luggage and our 1 1/2year old, that people will push past me as I make my way on my crutches towards the plane… We really need this extra time as a family, and if for some reason we aren’t let on early, it creates a lot of stress for us.

  50. Anna says...

    Our lifesaver during long flights was this flight harness. https://www.amazon.com/Child-Airplane-Travel-Harness-Restraint/dp/B0012E4FV8 It’s very very easy to pack and to install. It keeps your wiggly toddler more in place than normal seat belts in a plane. It makes bringing a car seat unnecessary. It’s not that cheap, but you can resell it, after you don’t use it anymore ;-) Have all a good and safe trip! love from Anna

  51. Since I have kids who get ear-ache my bet tip for flying would be pressure-leveling earplugs. They are amazing, and have really saved the last coupple of journeys for our family :-).

  52. I am always torn between staying off the plane as long as humanly possible and having convenient overhead luggage space. (When you’re traveling for 24 hours across 3 continents, you need a carry-on that doesn’t fit under the seat in front!) Maybe next time we’ll send Daddy on the plane with all the carry-ons, and we’ll hang out for a while longer in the airport! ;)

  53. Hannah says...

    Call me crazy, but I prefer getting on early with my 4 kids. Getting them all settled in while the plane is mostly empty is SO much more stress-free for everyone. Trying to get 4 kids down a tight aisle way and then settled with a plane full of people (who are already annoyed that you would even bring kids on a plane in the first place) is the worst. Ugh. I’m also a HUGE fan of letting my kids rot their brains out on iPads while flying. ;) It’s the only time I let my kids do copious amounts of electronics, the flight goes by quicker, and everyone is happier for it.

  54. Anna says...

    I love the way that Toby is looking at you so adoringly in this picture. :-)

  55. Amy says...

    I board last with my two kids and spend the time at the gate playing Simon Says, doing stretches and jumping jacks, timing them to see how fast they can run down an empty corridor or how many pushups they can do in 30 seconds, anything to tire them out. We check all but the bare essentials so we don’t need overhead space, and they get a treat every 20-30 minutes- could be a baggie of buttons & pipe cleaners to make jewelry, a snack, or a tiny plastic figurine. Anything new is exciting, doesn’t take much!

  56. Totally with you on this. I even wait to board last when I’m on my own. x

  57. Lauren says...

    I usually travel with my daughter (3) alone and with a car seat, so we always use the time to pre-board. I find it works for us as long as I don’t make her get buckled until takeoff. It’s also a nice change of pace since we’ve usually been in the airport for a couple hours by that point and she can see the planes better. When I’m able to travel with my husband, we usually have one stay behind with the kid and one take on the bag and car seat.
    My big travel tip (especially when flying alone with kids) is to fly with as little as possible. I’d rather pay $25 to let someone else handle my heavy clothing bag, so I just have to handle my single backpack and kiddo. SO much easier.

  58. m.m. says...

    I like this idea if you’re traveling with both parents. I often travel with just my two year old and then I need the extra time to get settled and take a breath before the plane gets crowded.

  59. AmyAnnT says...

    I am so with you. We definitely wait to board. Or, if I’m traveling with my husband, he goes and gets everything settled and then I come in with our daughter at the end. We fly Southwest a lot so usually, 1 of us with pay the $15 for early boarding /automatic check in. That way one us can get it in on the A group and save our seats and then the other can come in later with our 3 year old. Works great!

    • Heather says...

      Has the ticket agent ever given your husband a hard time for having all of the gear? I was carrying an extra bag one time because my husband had the baby and the ticket agent gave me so much trouble for having too many items. My husband and the baby were standing right beside me. I kept explaining that the extra bag was the diaper bag for the baby but it took a while for it all to click for the agent.

      We usually try to check as much as possible, but if we need to travel with our laptops we end up with a lot of carryon items.

    • AmyAnnT says...

      I haven’t had that experience, but I could see where it might be an issue. I’ve always just explained in advance so maybe I’m preempting their argument haha. My husband keeps the diaper bag too so I usually just have 2 bags.

  60. It’s even hard to wait on the plane if you’re an adult! I was stuck in a plane on the runway in Chicago once for 3 hours while we all watched thunderstorms outside…and uh, maybe I didn’t I become a fidgety 5 year old, but maybe I did…

    http://www.gillianreed.wordpress.com

  61. Amanda says...

    I worked as a gate and ramp agent at a small airport for 4 years. I also have a rambunctious three year old and a one year old that I’ve flown with extensively. Pre-boarding isn’t just for your benefit. It really helps the plane get out on time. Boarding is chaotic and jetways are usually very narrow. If you have several families folding up strollers during the general boarding process, it can really delay departure. For most domestic airlines, the turn times (the amount of time to unload and reload) is so tight, that even a few minutes makes the difference between an on time plane and one that is late. The other thing (and I can only speak to small, regional planes) is that those cargo compartments are not very big. It’s an art form getting everything to fit, especially during the holidays. When you have 3 or 4 enormous strollers coming at you at the very end, you might have to unload half of the pit to get them to fit, or else risk damaging them. I can totally see why you would want to board last, but for the sanity of the ground crew (who usually work incredibly hard), the timeliness of departure, and the safety of your strollers, I would definitely recommend boarding first.

    • Julie says...

      right on. my kids are grown, but the entitlement mentality of parents with young kids/toddlers/babies floors me to this day…it’s not all about accommodating parents who fly with their wee ones, its about EVERYBODY stuffing themselves into the tin can. at least let the planes get out on time! Waiting to board until the very last minute can only produce eye rolls from those who are doing their best to well, do their best.

    • Lucy says...

      I agree with you Amanda. I work as cs agent in one of Scottish airports and… it’s extremely hard job :-( Travellers have no idea how many things must be taken into account before you meet the flight and while boarding. I stopped complaining (why there is a delay, why they work so slow, etc) once I found the details of this job. Procedures and requirements might seem ridiculous for passengers but we need to stick to them, otherwise the domino might be triggered.

    • Sheri says...

      When our children were smaller, one parent would board early with all of the stuff (stroller, bags, etc.) and get “set-up” on the plane, and the other would wait as long a possible with the kids. It helped us make sure we had space in the overhead bin for our stuff, and gave the kids one lasts romp.

    • Kendra Wilkins says...

      Great insight!

    • I’ve seen a number of families who get to the plane at the last minute (via late connections or whatever – I have had 2 sets of little kids, I know things can happen for many reasons) only to find they can’t get seats together. So even more time is spent with the plane’s crew asking folks if they’d be willing to move seats to allow children to sit with their parents. While it’s heartwarming to see strangers helping out strangers, it can add another layer of stress on everyone (the kids, other passengers, the flight crew) and extra time to get the plane out on time.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this is great insight!

      in our case, we don’t take car seats on the plane and we have assigned seats and we check our bags, so it takes us 5 seconds to walk down the aisle and sit down. and i always figured it helps the rest of the passengers board more quickly if there aren’t two wriggly children on the plane already.

      but i see your point for sure in different circumstances! thanks so much for sharing.

    • Leah says...

      Totally agree. We were once the last to board due to a delayed connection and I felt SO bad. From the stroller fold up, to the maneuvering down the aisle with two small kids, to the car seat installation…we definitely held up the flight. And we are very seasoned traveling parents.

      I think this is a good travel tip for older kids who are more like adults in their needs (i.e. don’t need stroller, car seat, a bunch of extra gear, etc) and not great advice for families with younger children who are still higher maintenance.

  62. The only time I have ever wanted to board early was when I was traveling solo with newborns. I liked getting to my seat, getting everything ready and getting the baby latched and nursing for an easy take off. After that stage? Waiting until the last minute!

  63. Rebecca says...

    Yes! We do this too.

    The three airlines that I flew this summer all invited families to pre-board IF they had children under the age of two (or needed extra time). I could see wanting to board early if you were traveling alone with a baby on your lap – would be good to have wiggle room to get settled.

  64. Sheri says...

    Great food for thought! We have flown a lot with our son, now 2.5, and have always taken advantage of boarding early. He loves being on the plane, anticipating take off and watching all the action from the tarmac (luggage being loaded, plane being fueled, passengers boarding, propellers starting…) I find entertaining him on the plane, where he’s contained, easier than chasing him in the crowds. We’re flying in a couple weeks and I’ll think twice before jumping the que and see how it goes. Thanks for sharing!

  65. Abigail says...

    Great tip, if your seats are already assigned. We often fly airlines without assigned seating, and I’ve witnessed many parents struggle to find seats with their children when they’re late to board.

    A hot debate in my “Mom Circle” right now is car seats on planes- apparently small ones are supposed to ride in them on planes too (no lap children!)? I’ve not done this with my own son yet, but I fear trying to install a car seat aboard at the last minute . . . yikes!

  66. Ali, MD says...

    If you travel with car seats, which is the safest thing to do as recommended by the faa and aap- it’s much much easier to board early. Also we often fly southwest…no reserved seats.

  67. Whitney Kaye says...

    I have always done this!! And we fly a ton. People always invite me forward as if I missed the announcement. My husband even asked why I wasn’t boarding the first time he travelled with us. And while we’re at it, people handing out goodie bags to apologize for bringing children on the plane??? If you want, but not something anyone should apologize for. Everyone was an annoying, loud baby once. Just do your best to raise good, respectful children and if you have one crappy flight, doesn’t make you a bad parent. And other people getting annoyed by a baby or small child just makes them look bad.

  68. Aliisha says...

    My two year old easily squirms out of the standard airplane seatbelt, leaving me chasing him in the airplane with many scolding ” seatbelt sign is lit ma’am!” so this past year I’ve lugged his car seat onboard– has really helped as I’ve got to hold his baby brother. (Young children can’t release the carseat belt. some adults have a hard time too )Couldn’t imagine trying to install a carseat if I didn’t board early. When we land I use the carseat straps to attach the carseat to my carryon and with the baby in a carrier I’ve been able to travel– it’s not easy. Remember the days when you read and watched movies on flights?

  69. Casey says...

    I have never understood why ANYONE wants to board a plane early. I think priority seating should refer to boarding last. The only downside is having to check your carry-on curbside if there is no longer room overhead. Or if you’re flying Southwest and waiting means you get sandwiched.

    • Dawn says...

      I agree! I always thought it made more sense to have those seated up front to board last so people could get thru the first part of the plane unencumbered.

    • Tracey says...

      Unfortunately, it’s all about not having to check your carry on at this point.

  70. Jessie says...

    Every year we fly cross county with my three daughters. We’ve been doing this since my oldest was 9 months and she is now 7. If it’s just me and we all board first. This way I can install the car seat and get them all settled with snacks and anything else they might need. This includes going to the bathroom. If it is all three with my husband he boards first to put the car seat in and get us a spot for suitcases. Also now that 2 of my daughters are older they carry their own water, and snacks in their backpacks. We also bring cards and anything they want to color. The best life savor are IPADS (After 2 years old) and ring pops. Since they rarely use IPADS and never eat ring pops it’s a special treat. When they start getting cranky out comes the ring pops. The whole flight is stress free and we can actually close our eyes for a bit!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thanks, tasha!

  71. Tasha says...

    Ahhhh! I am in 100% agreement with this! I always make sure my essentials fit into a bag that I can slide under the seat in front of me and happily gate check the rest!

  72. Seriously! I did board early the first time I traveled with my toddler and it was a nightmare! I am still traumatized from that trip and I haven’t had the courage to do it again. Now for our trips we choose to drive to closer destinations or leave our son with the grandparents! I know I am horrible but traveling with a little one was disturbing to me!

  73. Aileen says...

    Long time reader, never posted… why have I never thought of this! We fly crosscountry often with our 22 month old, to see family, and have always taken advantage of the early board. It was great to be on early when she was tiny, but now we need to burn all the energy that we can! Thanks for the tip!

  74. Laura says...

    I totally agree with this….EXCEPT when I’m flying southwest. We prefer southwest because they let you choose your seats. If we get on early with the family boarding then we can head toward the back. Then, if there are any empty seats on the flight they will invariably be next to us, because nobody voluntarily chooses to sit next to a toddler and a baby. It works probably 75% of the time. Definitely worth the extra 15/20 minutes for us!

    • I’ve thought about how I totally wouldn’t mind sitting next to a toddler and happily do so if seating is tight. Most times I choose not to though but for the parent’s sake – I’m worried I’ll add on to the stress of flying with kids if there’s a stranger sitting next to them. This might be my ignorant thinking though since I don’t have kids, but I just imagine if I were a mom, I’d prefer having the row alone.

      I do think it’s the cutest thing when I’m sitting behind a toddler and they keep peeping out at you or waving their hand through the seat. Adorable.

  75. Burcu says...

    My 4 year old has over 50 take offs, mostly long haul, international flights. We board as soon as we can, she gets happy sitting on her seat, arranging her things, and that is what works for her. But I see the point of waiting until last minute too.

  76. As veteran fliers (with three kiddos solo!), I agree IF you have assigned seats. If you’re flying Southwest (who I actually love) or do not have assigned seats, I am the first one on that plane. Otherwise I’m stuck pacing the aisle while other passengers avoid eye contact while I’m looking for seats for the herd of small children I’ve brought aboard. ;)

  77. Emily says...

    One caution regarding this tip: This is genius unless you’re flying an airline without assigned seating (like southwest…)
    I think that you would want to board “earlier” so that you sit with your family!

  78. Trish says...

    Glad to read this. I always wondered what would be the advantage to boarding early with kids. We didn’t fly much when then kids were small, but later I wondered why.

  79. I have never understood why people would want to get on first. Apart from nabbing overhead space? I have two kids and we often fly from Australia to Europe (oh my lord) and we are ALWAYS the last ones on. Even if I didn’t have kids, I’d do it. I want to spend as little time on that thing as possible!

  80. Paty says...

    I absolutely do the same after I learned my lesson the hard way xD

  81. Leah says...

    No no no!!!! We once had an international flight with an airline that doesn’t do pre-boarding for families. Since we got to board last, there was no room for our trolley which held extra cloths, baby food and snacks, toys, all those essentials for flying with two kids. We had a connecting flight, and they didn’t agree to get the troly to us after that leg, only at our finale destination. Well, guess who’s kids were hungry, bored and threw up? Worst 20 hours I’ve ever had.

  82. Christine says...

    We do the same! Actually, one of us boards with the rest of the passengers and gets all of our bags in place, gets us set up, etc, while the other stays in the terminal with the kiddos. That way we can board the kids at the very last second, buckle in and are ready to go!

    • Isabella says...

      Genius! Thanks for the tip!

    • Melinda says...

      Now THAT is genius! #protip

    • Alice says...

      This is the one. Perfect.
      I’ve got 16+ hours next week with a baby and a toddler
      THANK YOU

    • Helena says...

      Genius! Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before!? Thanks😀

  83. Adrianna says...

    I totally agree with this but my husband prefers to board as quickly as possible to a. settle his airport anxiety and b. make sure he gets overhead compartment storage!

  84. Even traveling without kids I wait as long as possible!

  85. Allison says...

    100% agree! I have flown eight times with my infant and always politely refused the offer to board early. Even though my infant doesn’t really know the difference, I do! Walking MY jitters out until the last second helps me be more calm, which I believe in turn helps the babe.

    Also – for the old “nurse while taking off” advice to avoid problems for the ears- do not start nursing until at the very earliest you actually pull away from the gate! I try to wait until I can tell we are approaching the turn before take off. Rookie mistake the first time and I ended begging him to keep eating when we finally took off 40min later, as the climb and air pressure takes a few minutes!

  86. Emily R says...

    This sounds miserable, mostly because the airline we typically use has first come first serve boarding. If we boarded last minute it’s extremely unlikely my husband and I would be able to sit together, or even close, making taking care of our baby girl even more stressful for the one who has her in their lap. Boarding early allows us to find a comfortable seating as a family and not get stuck alone with a baby in a middle seat somewhere.

  87. Steph says...

    My 5 year old and I love boarding early, we get to have space in the overhead compartment and time to get settled. Then we check out all the stuff going on inside and outside the plane. It really depends on your and your kids’ personality.

  88. My daughter (bless her and her sensitive gag reflex) has thrown up on more than one flight. We have also collateral damage to adult clothes when one of the kids has a diaper leak. Wet, stinky clothes make for a lot unpleasantness, so we always have a change of clothes for each family member, and we can’t cram all of that (plus toys and snacks) under the seat in front of us. Overhead bins are crucial!

  89. Elisabeth says...

    So timely! :-) We’ve flown quite a bit with our 16 month old, but are about to leave for a trip to Australia (from Minnesota) and I’m so nervous! We won’t need a car seat much while there so we’re debating whether or not to bring it even if it’s just for the flight… Any suggestions? Otherwise we have our gifts, snacks, etc. ready to go!

    • We flew to Australia (from Ohio) back in January with our kids who were 5, 3, and 2 at the time. We did not take car seats, but rented them there (only needed them for 5 days in Tassie) and it turned out well. I ended up holding our 2 year old while she slept and put my feet up on her seat. We changed the kids into jammies and fed them well before our overwater flight. My only tip is take lots of little snacks. The last 4 hours our kids were wide awake and they didn’t serve breakfast until there was about 2 hours left in the flight! Have a blast. :)

    • Bring the car seat.. it’s a lot less hassle having it to and from the airport even if you’re not using it much in Oz.

    • Adrianna says...

      I just flew to Europe for three weeks with my 2.5 year old and 14 month old. We opted for no car seats and rented when we needed them (not often). All I can say is Thank Goodness we did not bring them. I could not fathom dragging two toddlers, all the luggage, a stroller AND two convertible car seats throughout the airports and Europe. We primarily used public transport and arranged in advance for car seats when they were needed and it worked out perfectly! Have a great trip!

    • Mae says...

      We always take our carseats. We bought an attachment online that converts our carseats into a pull-along stroller. It’s very handy for getting through the airport quickly with the littles strapped in! Then we have our carseat on vacation and my nerves are settled knowing they are safer on the airplane too.

    • Elisabeth, unfortunately it’s not legal to use overseas car seats in Australia. The government website on the topic is here: https://www.childcarseats.com.au/faqs and in the FAQs it specifies that you can’t use a seat from overseas.
      Luckily, the car rental companies here usually have great quality seats available to rent, or if you are visiting family maybe they could buy or borrow a seat for while you are here? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it would be a pain to lug it all the way here only to have to source another seat anyway!

    • Also, I’ve done the US-Sydney flight numerous times with one and then two kids, including once with a 16 month old, and mine were definitely happier to sprawl across their father and me than they would have been in a car seat. I too recommend lots of snacks, stickers and HEAPS of diapers. Something about the change in air pressure can cause startling things to happen to their digestion…

    • Alice says...

      I vote don’t take.
      I travel long haul a fair bit with two little ones and think it’s best to keep it simple in what you carry on. At 16 months your little one will spend a lot of time on you still, and it’s just another thing to lug through security etc.

    • Alana says...

      We’ve traveled extensively with our 4 year old, and I recommend bringing the seat at this age. With my girl, having the perceived freedom of a lap belt (as opposed to the 5 point harness of a car seat) made it harder to keep her in it. She would insist on getting out of her seat, run down the aisle, and absolutely fight sleep until she just crashed (usually after a melt down). In the car seat, she just accepted that she would stay put. This made it easier for her to fall asleep, which is crucial for international flights. Good luck!

  90. jen says...

    i only do this when we check bags which we rarely do because it adds an additional time to our trip!

  91. What a smart way of looking at it! My parents always loved getting on first with me as a child, and even joked when I was a teen that they sometimes wished I was young again so we could get on first. This makes me want to ask them why exactly they liked getting on the airplane first with a kid full of energy.

  92. I don’t have kids, but I always thought it would be just as you said! You’re smart for not doing something just because you can :)

  93. Kathryn says...

    Agree! The ONLY time we try to get on earlier is if we have carry on and know that there is limited space in the overhead.

  94. Susan says...

    Last. One. On. Every. Time. It’s amazing. Also pee and diaper change right before the final boarding announcement. And lollipops and gummi bears for the kids (even if it’s a 6 am flight!!!)

  95. Blaire says...

    I’m a 24-year-old without children…..but also I prefer boarding last! I understand why they have first class flyers board first (so they can serve drinks straight away), but as I pass all those (often smug) faces, I like to tell myself that they’re in that seat at least 30 minutes longer than I’m in mine!

  96. Claire says...

    I love boarding early with my kids- often because we allowed to pick our seats- which we give over to our kids. Plus I hate trying to get my kids threw a very crowded isle, going in early keeps us from knocking into others with our stuff. I also like giving others more choice on whether or not they want to sit near us as well.

    As for the wiggles and such- the whole week leading up to our flights we pick special “travel goodies” and slowly break into them while on the plane.

  97. Just last week I had to do a 15 hour flight by myself (as in, without my husband) with my 3 year old and 11 month old. Oh, and the flight left at midnight. Good times. But after several years of longhaul flights with kids, I do prefer boarding early because I usually have so many essential items in my carry on that I need to make sure to get a space in the overhead compartment. If there are two parents flying though, I love the idea of sending on on board early while the other parent waits with the kids until the last minute. I will definitely try that next year!

    • Louisa says...

      I thought the same thing! When flying solo it’s me, a diaper bag, my bag, a stroller, and a (usually) cranky baby. So unless there’s a kind stranger who wants to hold the baby, it’s easier to board first, plop her in an unoccupied seat and take my time getting us settled. I think the calculus changes as the kids get more mobile!

    • I’m about to take a 20 hour trip (layover included) alone with my 9 month old! I did it when she was three months, and she slept most of the time. Now she is a wriggly restless little thing. I’m nervous, but love seeing how others do it and survive.

  98. Ana says...

    I do the same!! 30 or 45 minutes extra… Why???

  99. My husbands sister and husband are contemplating the London Gatwick to NYC flight with their cute little son so I will be sure to send your blog her way :) Great tips!

    http://www.englishgirlinnewyork.org

  100. Cec says...

    I fly solo cross country and transatlantic flights with two kids (starting when their were newborns) at Least once a year. When you are alone carrying and being responsible for all the stuff, pre-board is the way to go!!! I am also tall and cannot risk loosing inches of leg room because my backpack cannot fit in the overhead compartment… when you have an other grown up it’s a lot easier and you can linger at the gate, although I do find that my kids relax a lot once they are finally in their seats and ready to finally go!

  101. Jules says...

    I do this whenever I fly, even before I became a mom! Flying with my father-in-law is frustrating because he gets so anxious and must get on the plane ASAP and gets even more anxious if everyone traveling with him doesn’t.

  102. Annalee says...

    Yes! I do the exact same thing. I am usually flying solo with my two little kids in tow, so shaving off that previous 45 minutes is amazing.

  103. Caitlin says...

    When I was flying back from California one time, I sat in front of a father with two young children. First smart thing he did – bring 3-4 different types of bubble gum so the kids could get excited about which flavor they wanted and pick it out themselves. (this obviously helped with the ear pressure as the plane took off) Second awesome thing he did – read up on airplanes and airports. He could answer every single question the kids had about what this does or what that’s for, which kept them listening and engaged. My boyfriend and I were even straining our necks trying to listen and learn something!!

    • Lisa says...

      That bubblegum trick is genius!

  104. Robin says...

    I totally see the logic in this, but for the flights we catch–usually transatlantic and usually full, and with three kids–we opt to board first. Straggling on board with unpredictable kids and our hands full of carry-ons and a plane full of observant eyes, trying to stuff luggage overhead while keeping an eye on kids in other passengers’ space… just makes me want to cry (believe me, we don’t overpack, but there’s still too much to carry plus kids). The kids actually are excited to board and tend to need plenty of time to check out their area before having to buckle in. I also find that boarding first allows me to talk to the flight attendants and alert them to any needs and/or apologize in advance. Frequently we’ve strategized with attendants to move our seat neighbors (for their sake and ours, politely, of course) to different seats and we get a whole row.

    • Mae says...

      Us too, Robin! We always board early. Once the airplane takes off they have to be strapped in their seat for so long that they love the opportunity to “explore” a little without 200 people staring at them. Also, we take our carseats on so it is MUCH easier to pre-board!! Otherwise it’s very hard trying to get down the aisle without bumping into EVERYONE!
      I buy each child 3-4 inexpensive gifts to unwrap every few hours on the plane. Works wonders!!

  105. We fly internationally often with our 8mo and 2yr old, and I COMPLETELY agree with this once the kids are mobile! As babies, I liked to board first because there was so much to bring on! Gate checking the stroller, diaper bag, the carrier, it was all so much. Now that we have a 2yr old, we always wait! One piece of advice I have for long flights with multiples is to split up! It sounds awful, but it can be a life saver. Our two are a challenging age gap where they mostly just bother each other during flights. I hope they play together once they’re older, but now our toddler just keeps the baby up. We split up seats now in different sections so we can switch off. Once my husband is losing it with our crazy toddler, I switch with him and let him relax with the drowsy baby, or vice versa. SO MUCH EASIER!

    xoxo http://www.touchofcurl.com

  106. Lisa says...

    I totally agree with this, and also changing the baby just before boarding, though this can backfire. Twice in flights with my son, despite changing just before he decided to poop just as the seatbelt sign came on

    Also agree about carry as little as possible. Wrangling a baby is more than enough without also having to try and keep track of bags and other things

    My tip is to dress the baby in layers as planes can either be ridiculously hot or very cold

  107. Stella says...

    YES! I have done several transatlantic flights with my now 3-yr old, always last one! Except his first trip as a 7 week old and just laid happily in the cot… :)

  108. Totally agree for the little ones. Sometimes our older son (5YO) likes to board early so we he can get settled (and start his ipad time, only on the plane does he get free reign), so sometimes one parent will board with him while the other stays with our 2YO until the last boarding call. Other travel essentials for our family: SNACKS and lots of them, WaterWow, and reusable stickers fro Melissa and Doug. For more on travel with kids check out: http://www.hopepostkids.com

  109. Raquel says...

    YASS! We always do this – 4 kids in tow!

  110. Yes! A thousand times yes! I’m a mom of four and have always lived away from family. We’re always the last ones on the plane and we always pick seats in the back of the plane. Close to bathroom (my favorite is changing a poopy diaper in that 2’x2′ space. 😐) and the vibe is generally more relaxed back there. For little littles, my mom told me to pack those weekday pill boxes from the pharmacy and you put a raisin or smarty or Cheerio in each little box. Works like a charm… you know, for at least 10 minutes! 😆 Flying with kids is not for the faint of heart!

  111. Chrissie says...

    Yes! That’s what we do. We take it one step further. My husband goes on first with all the bags and the car seat, does whatever he needs to do, while I run around with the kids until the last possible second.

    • Us too!

    • Laurel says...

      This is genius

  112. Suzanne says...

    Yes. This. I am so with you and have finally convinced my husband of the same. He can board first for business trips, but when we have the children along we’re marching down that aisle as close to last as possible.

  113. That’s such a good idea! We haven’t flown with our little one yet but I can’t imagine waiting an extra 30 minutes on a plane with a toddler. No toddler is going to say, “Sure Mom, I’ll sit still and quietly and definitely not jump on the airplane seats.”

  114. Our family involuntarily board last (with usually a personalised announcement reminding us to board) as my husband ALWAYS has to go to the bathroom right at the last minute! It used to stress me out but now I just say to our kids, “we’ll just leave him behind if he doesn’t hurry up”, hasn’t happened yet!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha that sounds like us!

  115. Meg says...

    I always try to board last. Tomorrow is actually the first time I’m flying since becoming a Mom. It’s an 8 hour flight, and it’s just me and my 5 month daughter. Last week I was browsing tips on flying with baby, and came across tip which I thought was genius… If you are flying with your kids and your partner, one of you boards early to install car seats and deposit baggage. While the other parent stays with the kids and then boards at the last minute. Best of both worlds kids aren’t restless on the plane, and everything is set up ahead.

  116. rach says...

    Good tip! I’m flying with my hubby & 14mo old on a relatively short flight (2hrs) but with a toddler, nothing is easy! I will be doing exactly what you suggest!

  117. Beth says...

    Yes!!! We do the same thing! My husband gets on during the regular boarding so that he can bleach wipe everything (our son is immunocompromised) and then I come on with the kids at the end.

  118. We board early to get settled, but we found that the trick is a surprise mid-flight (could be a forgotten book, stickers) and SNACKS.

  119. Emy says...

    Absolutely! And if your baby is already asleep, she doesn’t get woken up by the bright lights and loud announcements.

  120. Meredith says...

    Right on! We wait to board last as well… The past few times my husband has boarded with all of our stuff (carry on, stroller, etc.), while I wait until last call with our toddler. Its a gamble (sometimes he just doesn’t WANT to get on the plane), but its much easier to occupy those 30-40 minutes in the terminal.

  121. Lindsay Somers says...

    Hilarious! I totally introduced my husband to that rule! We don’t have kids but I always say, “spend the least amount of time on a plane, get on last.”

  122. eleanor says...

    We have taken advantage only so we can install car seats (since those invariably take awhile, and my husband is a stickler for safety). The great thing about getting around the overhead storage issue when traveling with little ones is that you get a lot more under-the-seat-in-front-of-you-space since they don’t need the legroom.

    • Lisa says...

      Same here. Having my two year old strapped into a seat made everyone’s flight better.

  123. Jamie says...

    Yes! I have a rambunctious two year old and LIVE by this rule. Also, most airlines will offer to check your bags for free once you’re in the waiting area which is what we always do.
    We check in all the free baby gear curbside (most airlines allow you to check in a car seat and one more baby item for free), then as soon as they offer to check in the other bags for free we take them up on it (since we already have bags checked anyways). Then we let our little one run his little hear out, do one last diaper change, and send a silent prayer up for nonstop sleeping en route and then we board at the last possible second. It’s not always fool proof, as kids will be kids, but it definitely helps to get his “wiggles” out :)
    Another good tip: Schedule (if you can) flights during nap times or when they’ll be tired and want to snuggle/sleep. Sometimes it works…

  124. Sarah says...

    YES! Excactly! I never understood why people with kids would board first voluntarily. Flying with kids is hard enough, you pray every second for the minutes to go by faster, so why prolong the suffering of being caught in a tin can??

  125. Julia says...

    Hmmm… I fly solo cross country with my 5 and 3 year old and I LOVE the pre-board! Probably just depends on your kids.

  126. Sarah Beth says...

    My daughter is still pretty small and non-mobile, so we get on first so that we can settle in and organize all the little bits and bobs we need to care for her. But I already can tell that once she’s moving on her own, we’ll be moving to getting on the plane as late as possible!

    Since having her, our number 1 airplane tip is checking our bag. We pack in one large suitcase for the three of us, and check it (so worth the $25 fee!) and our carseat in a bag stuffed with diapers and extra blankies. It’s so easy to move through the airport and get settled with just carryons! When possible, we wear her, and don’t even bring a stroller. Minimal schlepping is key!

  127. So wise, though we’re usually flying Southwest and need to take up the earlier boarding option in order to get a seat together.

    • Liz says...

      This was my thought. I almost always fly Southwest, in which case, if you wait, your 2yo might be sitting three rows back (although…)

  128. Amber says...

    Ugh sitting on a plane RIGHT NOW bc I boarded first. Now we know for our next leg

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg amber! rooting for you!!

  129. Kelli says...

    When traveling as a family, my husbands boards first with the stroller, etc and then I get on with the kids last. Best of both worlds!

  130. Kirsten says...

    I have never, ever thought of that!

    The only flying-with-kids trick I know comes from my husband, who flew back to India to visit family pretty frequently as a kid. To keep him and his brother occupied for the 10-12 hour flight his mom would wrap enough tiny dollar store presents that they would each get one every hour. She would wrap them really well so the unwrapping would take 10 minutes, and by the time they were bored of whatever it was it would be almost time for another present! Genius. I’m going with them this year for the first time and I joke that I want him to do that for me…

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so cool!

    • Kristian says...

      My parents did this for long road trips too (we lived in WY so it is a long drive to anywhere). Works well!

    • Tracey says...

      I love it! I just posted this same strategy. Works so well!!

  131. Katie says...

    Yep! When my husband and I are flying together, he’ll go in first and put bags away, put the car seat in (our little one is still under 2) and the I just swoop in with the little guy at the last minute.

  132. I always try to be the last one on, kids or not! Unless my baby is asleep then I am on ASAP taking my half hour break!

  133. Brillant! Unless you have an anxious traveler like my 5yr old. He is always so very very worried that we’ll miss our flight that we are those crazy folks at the front begging to get on board first. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so sweet!

  134. I’m an adult and I go by that rule. I don’t like to fly because I HATE being trapped on the plane for hours on end. My seat will still be there and my carry on fits beneath the one in front of me. No reason to be on that plane longer than I have to!

  135. Alison Briggs says...

    LOVE this! Unless you are flying Southwest and don’t have assigned seats ;)

    • Brianna says...

      But if she has a ticket/boarding pass, she has a seat, assigned or otherwise. It may not be an ideal seat (for me, that’s the window; aisle if I must, middle as an absolutely last resort), but she’s got a seat.

    • Trish O says...

      But you may not get seats together. On Southwest I board early when flying with others and last when flying solo.

  136. abi says...

    What about carry-on luggage space? Isn’t it all gone by the time you board?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Good point — yes, sometimes. But I still think it’s worth it. :)

      Also, if they take your bag, they typically give it back to you as soon as you get off the flight (in the tunnel) so you don’t have to wait at baggage claim.

    • Marg McGuigan says...

      If you are traveling with two adults, one goes ahead with bags. And they get some quiet child free minutes too!

    • I agree with Joanna! Pack necessities for your flight in a big bag or backpack(s) (I like my kids to take a little backpack. Helps to distribute the weight! 😂 And they feel so pro with their own special bag!) to store by your feet, and get rid of all extra bags. The gate agents love checking your extra bags bc it frees up overhead space for the other passengers.

  137. Molly says...

    Genius! I don’t even have kids yet and I always wait until the last call to get on the plane. It’s so tempting to line up with everyone and be the first on – but why? I’d much rather just relax in the waiting area and then find my seat right before take off.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, me too! the airplane air is so stuffy and drying, i want to be on the flight for as short a time as possible!

  138. Michelle says...

    I do this! My husband thinks I’m crazy, but now I feel validated:)

  139. Tricia says...

    So true – unless you are flying Southwest, which has open seating! :)

    • Marcy says...

      PRECISELY what I was thinking! I don’t really like flying Southwest but we mostly have to these days.

    • Natalie S. says...

      Agreed- you definitely can’t wait to board on Southwest if you have any hope of sitting next to your kids without pissing everyone off and making them move.

    • VL says...

      Yes, with Southwest open seating you would want to board at family boarding so everyone sits together and no other passengers have to move. Plus, I must admit, some people without kids, love knowing where all the kids are already located, when we board! :-)

  140. Natalie Brennan says...

    Ha I feel insane that I haven’t thought of this until now! Next flight, we’ll be the last people on!

  141. Amy says...

    Yes! Best tip.